Big fish in big ponds: A multilevel analysis of test anxiety and achievement in special gifted classes

Thomas Goetz, Franzis Preckel, Moshe Zeidner, Esther Schleyer

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This study analyzes the effects of individual achievement and achievement level of student reference group on test anxiety in a national sample of 769 gifted Israeli students (grade levels 4-9), which was previously investigated by Zeidner and Schleyer (1999a). We hypothesized that when controlling for individual achievement, students' experiences of test anxiety should increase with the increasing ability level of their peer reference group. It was assumed that this effect was largely mediated by reference group effects on academic self-concept (big-fish-little-pond effect). Zeidner and Schleyer found that gifted students within a gifted peer reference group showed higher levels of test anxiety than gifted students within a non-gifted peer reference group. Of note, the present study focused exclusively on gifted students attending special gifted classes. The main research question was whether or not the assumed effects of individual and class achievement can be found for gifted students in special gifted classes when taking the variance of achievement level (grades) of the special gifted classes into account. Using hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) methodology, the assumed effects were vindicated for this special group of high ability students. Thus, in line with previous results, the Worry component of test anxiety was more highly reactive to the effects of individual achievement than the Emotionality component. Also, in line with our theoretical assumptions, achievement/anxiety relations were largely mediated by the effects of academic self-concept.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)185-198
    Number of pages14
    JournalAnxiety, Stress and Coping
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Apr 2008


    • Academic self-concept
    • Achievement
    • Big-fish-little-pond effect
    • Emotionality
    • Gifted education
    • Test anxiety
    • Worry

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Psychiatry and Mental health
    • Clinical Psychology
    • Developmental and Educational Psychology
    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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